In advance of Sunday's Bears-Giants game, ESPNChicago.com's Michael Wright and ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk debate which unit has the advantage when the Bears' defense takes on Eli Manning and the Giants' offense. Here's a look at the case for Chicago.
Don’t be misled by the Bears’ 28th-ranked pass defense. Each of the club’s first three opponents rank in the top 12 in passing offense, and two of the quarterbacks the Bears faced -- Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Dallas’ Tony Romo -- sit among the league’s top 10 in passing yardage, averaging 313.3 and 253 yards, respectively.
Besides that, it’s not Chicago’s ability to defend the pass that sets it apart. The Bears destroy opponents’ rushing attacks, which we all know is one of the basic tenets of winning football.
Teams are rushing for a 39.7-yard average against the Bears, led by defensive end Julius Peppers and arguably the league’s most athletic group of linebackers in Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa. The club’s best defensive tackle, Tommie Harris, wasn’t even active Monday night against the Packers, yet the Bears never missed a beat.
Teams set up the passing game by running the football ball. But if you can’t run, what are you setting up?
While it’s true the Bears’ sack numbers (2) aren’t impressive, opponents are devoting so much to neutralizing Peppers that other defenders have pressured quarterbacks 17 times.
Let’s not forget about Chicago’s penchant for forcing turnovers, either. Ranked eighth in turnover differential, the Bears have made four interceptions, in addition to forcing and recovering four fumbles. It’s no coincidence that the top three teams in turnover differential (Steelers, Jets, and Buccaneers) own a combined 7-2 record while the bottom three (49ers, Panthers, Ravens) are 2-7.